Conference Seeks Ways to Eliminate Health Disparities in Genomic Medicine

To formally acknowledge the growing impact of health disparities on genomic medicine translation and to find solutions, the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine and Stanford University School of Medicine will host the third annual “Why We Can’t Wait: Conference to Eliminate Health Disparities in Genomic Medicine.” A group of diverse stakeholders — clinicians, researchers, advocates, public health specialists, ethicists, community members, industry leaders, foundations and legislators — will gather September 4-5 at W Hotel in Washington, D.C., to focus on policy issues related to genomics and health disparities.

“The research, clinical and policy approaches to genomics and health disparities are extremely varied, as are the stakeholders invested in and impacted by them,” said Margaret A. Pericak-Vance, Ph.D., the Dr. John T. Macdonald Foundation Professor of Human Genomics and Director of the John P. Hussman Institute for Human Genomics at the Miller School. “What is unique and powerful about this conference is that it addresses these many facets and their relationships to one another, and brings corresponding stakeholders together to facilitate collaboration that could help eliminate health disparities.”

Genomic medicine uses genetic information to improve health outcomes. Genomic medicine has the potential to change medicine from a discipline that reacts to disease to one that predicts and prevents it, while offering customized treatments. Completion of the NIH Human Genome Project and continued investment in genomics is progressively transforming the practice of medicine to achieve this goal. Given that the majority of disorders contributing to health disparities in the U.S. are known to have a genetic component, the potential for genomic medicine to increase health disparities is significant.

“Those of us who are clinicians, researchers and public health specialists in the field must be advocates,” said Susan Estabrooks Hahn, M.S., C.G.C., assistant director of communications, compliance and ethics, associate director of the Center for Genomic Education and Outreach at the Hussman Institute and President of the American Board of Genetic Counseling. “We are the most well suited to anticipate and address emerging trends in inequities, not only to access of genetic services and testing, but in the caliber of our research data which will drive changes in healthcare. It is clear we have a lot of work to do quickly before the problem gets away from us.”

The goals of the two-day conference are:

  • To assess the impact of genomic medicine on disparities in healthcare;
  • Elucidate the impact of current policy and policy changes that may remedy or exacerbate health disparities related to genomic medicine; and
  • Create a forum for stakeholders to learn from one another’s expertise and research and facilitate collaboration.

Preliminary session topics include the impact of current and future policy decisions on health disparities, epigenetics, the impact of new technologies, global issues and cancer disparities.

The keynote speaker will be Kathleen Sebelius, the outgoing U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services.

For more information or to register, please visit

Funding for this conference was made possible in part by the Hussman Foundation, Ancestry DNA, March of Dimes, and Shire Plc. It was also partially funded by grant number R13MD008154-02 from the National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities and the National Human Genome Research Institute and by grant number 1UL1TR000460, Miami Clinical and Translational Science Institute, from the National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences and the National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities. The views expressed in written conference materials or publications and by speakers and moderators do not necessarily reflect the official policies of the Department of Health and Human Services; nor does mention by trade names, commercial practices, or organizations imply endorsement by the U.S. Government.

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